• Birth—May 15, 1962
• Where—Palo Alto, California, USA
• Education—B.A., Yale University; M.F.A., Columbia University
• Awards—Guggenheim Fellowship; Asian| American Literary Award
• Currently—lives in New York, New York
Julie Otsuka was born and raised in California. After studying art as an undergraduate at Yale University she pursued a career as a painter for several years before turning to fiction writing at age 30. She received her MFA from Columbia.
Her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine (2002), is about the internment of a Japanese-American family during World War II. It was a New York Times Notable Book, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers finalist. The book is based on Otsuka's own family history: her grandfather was arrested by the FBI as a suspected spy for Japan the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and her mother, uncle and grandmother spent three years in an internment camp in Topaz, Utah. When the Emperor Was Divine has been translated into six languages and sold more than 250,000 copies. The New York Times called it "a resonant and beautifully nuanced achievement" and USA Today described it as "A gem of a book and one of the most vivid history lessons you'll ever learn."
Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic (2011), is about a group of young Japanese 'picture brides' who sailed to America in the early 1900s to become the wives of men they had never met and knew only by their photographs.
Otsuka's fiction has been published in Granta and Harper's and read aloud on PRI's "Selected Shorts" and BBC Radio 4's "Book at Bedtime." She lives in New York City, where she writes every afternoon in her neighborhood cafe.
When asked what book most influenced her life or career, here is what she said:
When I first started writing I read all of Hemingway's short stories, beginning with the Nick Adams stories in In Our Time. I remember thinking, 'oh, so that's how you do it.' Now I'm much less convinced, however, that there's a right way to do it. Still, he was the writer I first imprinted myself on, and I go back to his stories often, if only for the pleasure of listening to the sound of his sentences, his cadences. (Author bio from Barnes & Noble.)
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